Texas’ bats had refused to wake up through six innings against California on a sluggish Thursday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
But the Longhorns received a gift in the seventh. A pair of walks and an error at second base brought freshman third baseman Kody Clemens to the plate with the bases loaded and one out.
The Longhorns looked primed to cut into the lead. But any threat of momentum was quickly crushed as Clemens grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. Texas ultimately fell to the Golden Bears 4-1.
“We hit a lot of balls right at them,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “If they can get better at evaluating pitches and making contact, we’ll be alright.”
Freshman pitcher Nolan Kingham struggled out of the gate on Thursday night, as the Golden Bears made strong contact in each of its first six at-bats. It looked as though Kingham’s day would be done in the first inning, as a rocket up the middle ricocheted off his knee. But the young right-hander stayed in the game after examination by trainers and drew a groundout to end the inning.
Kingham worked out of another jam in the second. But the wheels came off for the redshirt freshman in the next inning, surrendering four hits en route to a 2-0 California lead. The Longhorns promptly executed a double play to end the inning, but the damage was already done.
“They just barreled everything up,” Kingham said. “I’m just trying to pitch to the mitt and get some out.”
The Longhorns bats stayed as silent as the sparse crowd at the Disch through the first three innings. Golden Bears sophomore pitcher Jeff Bain shut down the Longhorns with quality command of the strike zone, producing a plethora of ground ball outs — seven in total.
“We hit a bunch of balls on the ground that were hit really hard,” junior first baseman Kacy Clemens said. “Baseball’s a tough game, but we have to come back tomorrow with a lot of energy and punch [California] right back.”
California continued to rack up the runs in the fourth. The Golden Bears’ base hit parade wore down Texas’ pitchers, with all 11 hits in the first four frames coming via the single. After the top of the fourth, it was 4-0 Cal.
Texas failed to produce a run over the next four frames. The Longhorns got on the board with a solo shot from Kacy to lead off the bottom of the eighth, but that was all the Longhorns would get. They dropped the series opener 4-1, placing their season record at an even 5-4. Texas failed to produce at the plate on Thursday, but Garrido said he’s still happy with the Longhorns’ approach.
“Hitting is the hardest thing of all,” Garrido said. “But once they get comfortable, they’re going to be a lot more consistent.”